Research into new uses for New Zealand's strong wool has led to the development of wool particles, powders and pigments having export potential for applications as diverse as cosmetics, printing, luxury goods and personal care.
Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand's research initiative with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment was aimed at exploring new uses for the fibre.
The organisation unveiled the wool products at an event in Christchurch to celebrate the achievements from its New Uses for Strong Wool programme, supported by research, industry and funding partners.
The organisation also announced the launch of commercial development company Wool Source to evolve the new products and assess market demand for the strong wool innovation, along with completion of its pilot production facility to manufacture its first deconstructed wool ingredients from 100 per cent biodegradable, renewable and sustainable New Zealand strong wool.
Investment from the Ministry for Primary Industries was also announced to fund further product lines and commercial development as part of the wider New Uses for Strong Wool programme.
MPI was contributing $1.95 million via its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund alongside $2.92 million from Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand.
The three-year programme was aimed at proving the commercial viability of the new deconstructed wool particle products.
The goal was to develop more sustainable product ingredient alternatives for global manufacturers and consumers, while revitalising New Zealand's strong wool sector.
Additionally, the Strong Wool Action Group (SWAG) announced it was jointly funding Wool Source's market engagement alongside Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand.
"We're providing support for Wool Source to undertake a deep dive project into particles, powders and pigments markets to assess the scale and viability of the commercial opportunity," Strong Wool Action Group chief executive Andy Caughey said.
"New Zealand's wool production, 90 per cent of which is strong wool, is at a low point with declining sheep numbers. With many farmers selling wool at a net cost this season, the industry is desperately seeking innovation to boost strong wool demand and prices."
Wool Industry Research Ltd (WIRL), a wholly owned subsidiary company of Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand, was five years into its seven-year research contract for the New Uses for Strong Wool R&D programme.
Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment invested $8.4 million of the $21 million seven-year project in partnership with Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand.
The research programme had focused on deconstructing wool to a cellular and particle level and then reconstructing it for various product uses.